The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Allies keep Delhi out of battles

New Delhi, March 8: The Congress leadership has managed to keep the ruling United Progressive Alliance insulated at the Centre from state-level troubles involving some of the allies.

The post-Assembly poll developments in Bihar leading to President's rule yesterday have brought the Congress's coalition management skills into focus.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal, which is the second largest UPA constituent after the Congress, and the Lok Janshakti Party, its Bihar rival, have resolved to co-exist in the UPA at the national level despite bitterness for each other in Bihar.

RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav may be angry that the Congress leadership had covertly egged on his LJP counterpart Ram Vilas Paswan to ruin his re-election prospects, 'but he has no grievance against the Congress president', said a party functionary. 'Nor is he going to embarrass the UPA government.'

So far, there has been no indication that 'aggrieved' junior partners would unite themselves within the ruling coalition to weaken the Congress's authority.

There is also no talk of any ginger group, like the 'federal front' that operated in the erstwhile United Front, or an informal pressure group of junior parties in the National Democratic Alliance when it was in power.

Sections within the Congress had feared that the allies could seek to strengthen themselves by bringing 'like-minded junior partners' together. That is now unlikely to happen. Congress leaders feel relieved that Laloo Prasad, who could have proved to be the nucleus for such a pressure group, has not gone for such an approach.

Among the UPA partners, a kind of neutrality prevails when it comes to dealing with state issues involving an ally and the Congress.

Last October, Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party had tried to bring together the UPA partners to exert pressure on the Congress to concede the Maharashtra chief ministership to the NCP nominee. The NCP had expected the RJD and Left parties to express solidarity. But a senior NCP functionary said: 'The response from the allies and the Left were disappointing. 'We were alone when we expected others to stand up and be counted though we were privately assured of their support.'

The Telengana Rashtra Samiti, the Congress's Andhra Pradesh ally, also experienced a similar problem when it tried to place its statehood demand on the UPA's priority list. TRS leader and Union minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao was made to understand that he would have to deal with Sonia on a one-to-one basis.

In Bihar, the NCP has maintained its neutrality, though the party extended the support of its three MLAs to the RJD, said a party leader.

The DMK, the third largest constituent in the UPA, too prefers to sort out its problems with the Congress on its own instead of taking every issue to the UPA co-ordination committee. 'It ensures that individual problems involving one or the other ally stays confined to the state where the ally has its base. The UPA at the national level does not get into the picture. Which is why we believe that the Bihar developments would have no adverse impact on the ruling UPA at the national level,' said a Congress leader.

Therefore, it is no surprise that there has been no demand from the allies for a UPA co-ordination committee meeting to sort out problems in Bihar or Jharkhand, he added.

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